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Warrior Logisticians: Establishing an SSA From the Ground Up

The 9-week, 2-day course for the automated logistical specialist (military occupational specialty 92A) teaches Soldiers to be “warrior logisticians.” But the true test of these Soldiers’ abilities comes when they are called upon to establish an operational supply support activity (SSA) from the ground up in a combat environment in less than 72 hours.

No deployment put the logisticians of the 3d Infantry Division Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) to the test more than the recent deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 06–08 that began in May 2007. The 3d CAB was prepared to deploy to Contingency Operations Base (COB) Speicher in Tikrit and conduct a relief-in-place with the 25th Infantry Division CAB. COB Speicher had an operational SSA and a mature authorized stockage list (ASL) that the 3d CAB expected to assume. The planning and the predeployment site survey were complete, and the last few touches on the concept of support were being finalized.

However, a decision to put a surge of forces in Iraq quickly changed mission requirements and shifted the CAB’s destination from COB Speicher to Camp Striker at Baghdad International Airport. For the warrior logisticians of the 3d CAB SSA, this meant a quick revision of the ASL and a larger deployment packing list since they would not have an existing SSA to fall in on. They were challenged with the task of establishing a large SSA from the ground up in a limited time and in an unfamiliar area.

Preparing to Deploy

The rigors of this daunting task were welcomed by the Soldiers of Alpha Company, 603d Aviation Support Battalion. Before the Soldiers even left their home station at Fort Stewart, Georgia, the predeployment process ensured mission success. The first step was to conduct an ASL review using dollar cost banding—an algorithm developed by the RAND Corporation for determining the ASL for SSAs—and tailor the ASL based on the recommendation submitted by RAND. Based on theater trends, this review provided the SSA with the best inventory. Lines were added later to the ASL because of the change in the deployment timeline and location. However, the support
operations office (SPO) worked diligently to ensure that the zero-balance lines were aggressively worked in order to establish an adequate ASL.

Before load up for departure from Fort Stewart, the Soldiers of Alpha Company completed a 100-percent inventory of their ASL and ensured that the load plans reflected the exact storage locations by container or vehicle bumper numbers. Most of the items were loaded in containers, but some of the bulk items were secondary loads on flatbed trailers. It was important to ensure that all ASL containers were identified as high priority and moved on the first common-use land transportation assets available. Some of the ASL containers were not given priority in the push north. However, the detailed load plans and an accurate deployable equipment list kept the unit aware of exactly which equipment was missing. In-transit visibility also facilitated the ease of tracking where the ASL was and when it was scheduled to arrive.

Preparations on Site
Actions during reception, staging, onward movement, and integration were critical to rapidly establishing the SSA. The Standard Army Management Information System (STAMIS) gunnery (a process for checking systems to ensure that they are up and communicating) validated the Standard Army Retail Supply System and ensured that the correct unit identification codes and Department of Defense
activity address codes were loaded and that the STAMISs could communicate.

Several 92A Soldiers were sent with the advance party to prepare the warehouse. The Soldiers embraced their new home, which was missing a wall and had a good, thick layer of dust and dirt on the floor and pigeons nesting in the rafters. For these reasons, it was not the warehouse of choice; however, the Soldiers went to work and turned the formerly abandoned warehouse into a usable logistics hub.

Although an inventory of the ASL items was not needed when the containers arrived (since an inventory had been completed before shipping and the containers were sealed), one was conducted anyway to confirm the prior inventory. A thorough inventory was completed less than 72 hours after the ASL items arrived. Once the containers were moved into location sequence, the SSA became the first fully operational logistics node in the brigade.

Containers

The success of getting the SSA operation in record time was largely due to the use of Boh Environmental, LLC (BOH), containers, including the BOH Cargo 6, BOH Cargo 12, and BOH field pack-up (FPU) 8–2 containers and the expandable wall command center (EWCC).

The BOH Cargo 6 is a retractable, one-door container that has adjustable shelves inside. It is used primarily for bulk items. The BOH Cargo 12 is a larger version of the Cargo 6. This container with four bifold doors is also used for bulk items and parts and can accommodate a parts rack with drawers, a bulk rack with pallets, or a floor load with tiedown rings.

The FPU 8–2 is a custom-made, multifunctional steel container with two doors on each side. The inside is custom made to fit four modules with drawers. The FPU 8–2 can actually accommodate 27 different types of modules and glide-out drawers. This container is primarily used for smaller parts in the ASL. However, it can be configured to accommodate larger parts by removing as many of the modules as necessary.

The EWCC boasts three two-person slide-out workstations. It has one door on each end and comes with a fixed window, electrical raceways with outlets, switchable red and white lighting, six computer workstations with desks, a phone connection, five locking file cabinets, and a grounding lug.

Container Advantages and Disadvantages

One advantage of using these containers is the enhanced mobility they offer. All of them can be transported by land, sea, or air. They were prepacked for use at the SSA, and they arrived just as they had been packed. The BOH containers did not require blocking and bracing since the interior modules were securely in position, there was no metal-to-metal contact, and a net was used instead to secure the contents of plywood. A 10,000-pound forklift was all that was needed to arrange the containers in the desired sequence for use.

Another advantage of using the containers is the modularity that they provide. A push-package to a combat training center, other forward operating bases (FOBs), or training exercises could be easily assembled by identifying which modules inside the FPU–8 were needed. Full access to the materiel was another benefit; when the doors to these containers were opened, the items were right there. The modules have a custom configuration that allows them to be arranged to fit exactly what needs to be held. The all-steel construction makes these containers extremely durable. Not only are these containers suited for ASL items; they also can hold bench stock and prescribed load list supplies just as well.

The EWCC offers the advantage of housing computers in an office-like structure rather than in a warehouse. If the computers were in the warehouse, they would not last long with all the dust and dirt that accumulates in a desert environment.

Despite all the benefits that the BOH containers offer, they have some drawbacks. First, the 3d CAB did not use the FPU 8–2’s retractable door feature, which allows doors to slide into the side walls to create an open-face BOH. If this feature were not there, the 4 inches on each side of the container where the door retracts could provide an extra 8 inches of drawer space. That may not sound like much, but the space adds up when one considers the number of containers that the 3d CAB used.
A second disadvantage is the cost. These BOH containers are expensive. The FPU 8–2 costs $22,366. The BOH Cargo 6 costs $11,477, and the BOH Cargo 12 costs $18,442. The different modules are approximately $10,000 each, and the drawers are about $1,000. The EWCC is a whopping $88,144.


Old Containers Versus New Containers

The ISU–90 containers and M129 semitrailer supply vans are in competition with the newer, more versatile BOH containers. The ISU–90 is a larger container than the BOH container, but it holds fewer ASL items. The ISU–90 also requires blocking and bracing. Imagine opening a door to a container to inventory its contents, only to see secure plywood and two-by-fours challenging you to tear them down just to get to the ASL. Now imagine doing that with close to 40 ISU–90s, and remember that each ISU–90 has a set of doors on each side.

The M129 van has some good qualities, like mobility, but it does not compare to the Cargo 12. The M129 van has a much smaller door that larger parts cannot fit through, which reduces the overall capability of the container. And the M129 van is not configured with cabinets or drawers. The drawers and shelves used by Alpha Company were contracted through Stanley Vidmar at an additional cost to the $85,000 price of the M129 van.

Providing Responsive Support

Today’s modular Army is prepared to establish operations and support multiple locations simultaneously. Logisticians are required to adjust their methods in order to provide responsive support to their customers. The 3d CAB occupied three additional FOBs, so the SPO immediately identified the requirement for designated “lanes” to support forward customers. The SSA platoon set aside a specific number of pallets and labeled each by its FOB. The SPO coordinated for regular pushes to the FOBs and relied on the company’s slingload team to establish logistics packages for delivery by slingload or to deliver internal loads of every class of supply.

Alpha Company quickly realized it needed slingload equipment, which was not on its modification table of organization and equipment (MTOE). The supply sergeant aggressively worked to meet the requirements, and an MTOE change request was submitted. Distribution companies like Alpha Company should be authorized at least ten 10,000-pound sling sets, four 25,000-pound sling sets, four cargo reach pendants, and four 5,000-pound cargo nets. These items allow the distribution company the versatility of resupplying its customers by air.

Another needed MTOE change was the addition of a 4,000-pound forklift. Although the MTOE for Alpha Company allocated an all terrain lifter, Army system (ATLAS), a 4,000-pound forklift would have offered much more maneuverability within the warehouse. A request was submitted for a contracted commercial forklift as a short-term solution.

In the CAB, an aircraft on ground (AOG) was a significant reduction of combat power. The process for obtaining AOG parts had to be clearly briefed and followed. The SPO AOG representative emailed a list of the AOG parts to the SSA. A printed copy of this list was sent to the receiving and issue sections of the SSA. When the receiving section was processing parts, an AOG part was easily identified by the document identifier code, which included “AOG” and the last four numbers of the serial number (predesignated as a 9000 series). After the AOG part request was processed, the part was handed over to the issue section, where it was placed in a bin dedicated for AOG parts. The issue section logged it in the book and then gave the SPO AOG representative a call. The representative then informed the customer that its AOG part was in the SSA. If the AOG remained in the bin for over 1 hour, the issue section immediately gave the SPO AOG representative another call and notified the SSA technician and company commander.

Each mission and location will create a different set of challenges and benefits. Soldiers will learn the technical aspects of their jobs in due time, so the Army Quartermaster Center and School should ensure that its curriculum trains young Soldiers to be creative, adaptive, and flexible. The course should give Soldiers a basic knowledge but also challenge them to come up with solutions and engage in problem-solving techniques. The warrior logisticians of the Alpha Company, 603d Aviation Support Battalion, 3d CAB, accomplished their mission not only by technical competence but also by combining techniques that served well in the past with innovative measures.
ALOG

First Lieutenant Brice R. Westhoven is the supply support activity platoon leader for Alpha Company, 603d Aviation Support Battalion, 3d Combat Aviation Brigade, 3d Infantry Division, which is deployed to Iraq. He holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from John Carroll University and is a graduate of Basic Officer Leader Course (BOLC) II and III.